Category Archives: Agricola Lectures

Sebastain Castellio: Hero of Modern Religious Tolerance? – Hans Martin Kirn

SebastianCastellio.jpg4 April, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

In his famous struggle for religious tolerance the French reformed theologian and opponent of Calvin, S. Castellio (1515-1563), focussed on the solution of intra-Christian conflicts and the execution of heretics. However, widely overlooked, references to Jews and Judaism (and also to Islam) played an important role in his argumentation. How did Castellio refer to biblical Judaism? What was his strategy of ‘Judaizing the heretics’? What was the relation with the ‘heretization of the Jews’ in Late Medieval times? These and other questions about religious tolerance in the Reformation period will be discussed.

Hans-Martin Kirn is Professor of Church History at the Protestant Theological University. His research is focused on the history of Central and Western European Protestantism  between the 16th and the 18th centuries.



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Ship and Iterate: Colonialism as a Recursive Process – Mark Thompson


Time: 16:00. Venue: Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

This paper argues that colonialism is a recursive process.  That is, to draw from the concept of recursion in computer science, colonialism resembles a process in which the output of a function becomes the input of the next iteration of the function.  In this case, colonialism is also dynamic (and often chaotic) so that with each iteration the successive outcomes (and the inputs) are different, sometimes wildly so.  Yet the recursion does not entirely efface itself after each iteration—traces remain of previous forms.  And because colonialism is at once a serial process (one settlement follows another), a parallel process (colonies develop simultaneously), and a networked process (colonies influence one another)—traces are left behind not only from previous colonies and previous iterations of a colony but also from previous iterations of other colonies.

This model runs against important models of colonization for early modern British America in which “virgin land” colonization appears as the typical process of development.  Although historians long ago showed that European colonization had roots in Old World experiences, the sense persists that colonization is culturally new.  Not only that, it is new again and again—it is new each time it begins in a new place.  But as the rage for interconnectivity has swept through history as well as all else in modern culture, historians have begun to show that colonies have had strong connections to one another not just at later stages of development but at earlier ones, too.  We begin to see that all colonies are colonies of colonies.

Dr Mark Thompson is a senior lecturer at the Department of American Studies at the University of Groningen. He recently published The Contest for the Delaware Valley: Allegiance, Identity, and Empire in the Seventeenth Century (Louisiana State University Press, 2013).

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Intersubjectivity in Early Modern Philosophy: A Case Study on Spinoza’s Philosophy of Mind – Martin Lenz

1 February, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

In this paper, I would like to defend the claim that Spinoza endorses an intersubjective or, more precisely, an interactionist view of the mind. What does this mean? The basic assumption of such a view is that our minds do not cognize things prior to our relation to others. This means that the content of our thoughts is determined by our mind’s relation to other minds.

But why should you care whether Spinoza held such a view? Like most other early modern philosophers, Spinoza is portrayed as an individualist or subjectivist who adheres to the Cartesian view of the mind as a private place with private mental states. On this reading, early modern philosophy is pervaded by the idea that thinking requires nothing beyond an individual mind, a self that thinks; indeed, the cogito is the starting point for building up true knowledge. In contrast to this reading, I would like to show that quite a number of early modern authors endorsed an intersubjectivist view of the mind, a view that would deny the sufficiency of a subjective cogito. In this paper, I will confine myself to Spinoza who, as I see it, defends an intersubjective view that is rooted in his metaphysics, defining the individual by means of interrelations to others.

Prof. Martin Lenz is the chair of the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Groningen. He works in the area of medieval and early modern philosophy.

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Jerome and the Hebraica Veritas: Or, How the Hebrew Bible became a Christian Book – Frans van Liere

21 January, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 123

The idea of the Hebraica Veritas is the belief that the Hebrew Bible, as it was transmitted in rabbinical circles in the first centuries of the Common Era, was the “original” Old Testament text. As obvious as this may seem to modern biblical scholars, we have to appreciate how novel this idea was when the church father Jerome first introduced it in the church of Late Antiquity, when Greek versions and their Latin translations were regarded as the “common versions”. The idea meant that, to recover the original text, one needed to turn to the Jews, who were guardians both of the sacred text itself and of the language in which it was written. Medieval exegetes inherited this paradoxical idea, and adapted it to the specific circumstances of the Christian middle ages. It shaped Christian conceptions of textual authority, and influenced Christian attitudes towards the Jews of their own time. Through the steady growth of medieval Christian Hebraism, one could indeed say that by the end of the Middle Ages, not only had the idea of Hebraica Veritas triumphed, but, indeed, the Hebrew Bible had become a Christian book.

Prof. Frans van Liere is the director of medieval studies at Calvin College. His An Introduction to the Medieval Bible was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014.

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Amans the Memorious – R. F. Yeager

Monday, November 9th, 16:00

Forum Images Cinema (Hereplein 73), Room 1

Amans the Memorious

R. F. Yeager, University of West Florida

Gower Vox Clamantis

Prof. R.F. Yeager is based at the University of West Florida. His publications include: John Gower’s Poetic: The Search for a New Arion; John Gower: Contemporary Views (ed.); Gower’s Shorter Latin Poems; and Who Murdered Chaucer? (co-authored with Python Terry Jones). Prof. Yeager’s talk will focus on Gower’s major English poem, the Confessio Amantis.

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Contemplative in Action – Prof. Bernard McGinn

Monday, June 22nd, 16:00-18:00, Courtroom, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) is one of the most noted mystics in Christian history and was declared the first female doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Teresa’s teaching on contemplation and union with God, especially as set forth in her Life and The Interior Castle, remains extremely influential. What is sometimes neglected is that Teresa was also an active reformer of the Carmelite Order, who established seventeen reformed houses in the period between 1562 and 1582. Her own active life led her to reflect on the issue of the relation of contemplation and action, a major theme in Christian mysticism, and to work out a new theory of how to be a contemplative in action, as is evident in her masterpiece The Interior Castle.

Bernard McGinn is Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. He has written extensively in the areas of the history of apocalyptic thought and, most recently, in the areas of spirituality and mysticism. His current long-range project is a seven-volume history of Christian mysticism in the West under the general title The Presence of God, four volumes of which have appeared: The Origins of MysticismThe Growth of MysticismThe Flowering of Mysticism; and The Harvest of Mysticism in Medieval Germany.

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The Baltic Drug Trade (1650-1850) – Jan Willem Veluwenkamp (RUG)

Monday, May 4th, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

The Baltic Drug Trade (1650-1850)

Jan Willem Veluwenkamp, University of Groningen

This paper will analyze the development of the size and the structure of some of the major medicines imported in and exported from the Baltic Sea ports via the Danish Sound between about 1650 and 1850, namely rhubarb and sarsaparilla. Use will be made of Sound Toll Registers Online (STRO: The development of commerce in medicines can be an indication of the development of medicine consumption and therefore of health care.

Dr Veluwenkamp is an associate professor of history at the University of Groningen. His specialisation is early modern social and economic history.

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How to Experience Origins and Remember Infancy in 17th-Century England – Timothy Harrison

Tuesday, March 31st, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 125

Since the experiences that may have accompanied birth and infancy are not disclosed to memory, they remain opaque and unknown. This common sense view—influentially formulated by St Augustine and many other theologians and philosophers—was challenged by a variety of seventeenth-century English poets who developed verbal strategies for articulating the felt valences of early human life. Such poets as John Donne, John Milton, Thomas Traherne, and John Dryden composed imagined or remembered first-person accounts of birth and infancy. In this paper, I argue that these accounts are significant for two reasons: first, they shed light on one of the period’s most persistent fantasies, the coalescence of absolute naivety and full maturity; and second, they reveal historically-specific presuppositions about the nature of the human condition, about what aspects of experience are most fundamental.

Timothy Harrison is Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago, where he has worked since finishing his PhD in the summer of 2014 at the University of Toronto. His current book project, Forms of Sentience in Early Modernity, explores the verbal expression of how it feels to be alive in the work of authors ranging from Montaigne to Milton. He is also co-authoring a book with Elizabeth Harvey, entitled John Donne’s Physics.

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The Force Stones: Vitalism and Gemstones in 18th-century Dutch Medicine – Marieke Hendriksen

Monday, March 2nd, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130Herman-Boerhaave-L_B

Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738), professor of Botany, Chemistry and Medicine at Leiden University, was considered ‘the teacher of all of Europe’ in his time. In the eighteenth century, metals and (gem)stones were still commonly used in medicine, but new chemical research by Boerhaave and others seems to have changed this. My current research explores how Boerhaave’s chemical research changed first his own ideas on the vital properties and thus the medical usefulness of metals and (gem)stones, and subsequently those of his contemporaries and students. Of particular interest here is the influence of vitalism, or the hypothesis that matter within or outside a vegetable or animal body can have active, living properties, which may influence the vital powers and thus the functioning of bodies.

Dr Hendriksen is a post-doctoral researcher in ICOG (Faculty of Arts).

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A Glimpse of Heaven – Kees van der Ploeg,

Monday, February 2nd, 16:00, Faculty of Theology, Oude Boteringestraat 38, room 130

In recent years attention has been paid to the church space as a stage for the performing of (para)-liturgical acts of a more or less theatrical character (Hans-Joachim Krause, Johannes Tripps). Though it might appear from these publications that such performances were first and foremost popular in the German speaking world, new evidence has come to light which indicates that the use was equally wide-spread in the Netherlands, and moreover at a relatively early point in time. My paper will pay particular attention to two rather spectacular examples: the para-liturgical performances around Easter and Pentecost in Utrecht Cathedral from the early thirteenth to the late fifteenth centuries (including a farting devil preceding live doves and burning torches as the re-enactment of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost) and the performance on Ascension Day in the collegiate church of St Lebuinus in Deventer around 1500.

Dr Kees van der Ploeg works on the history of architecture for the faculty of arts of the University of Groningen. His research focuses on the history of the restoration and preservation of monuments.

Himmelloch in the crossing of Our Lady’s, Breda (late 15th century)

Himmelloch in the crossing of Our Lady’s, Breda (late 15th century)

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